Gwen Orel, I miss you. 

And by the way, thanks to Beverly Orell, her mother! As an octogenarian who loves all-things-Montclair, I miss that delightful savvy strutter, that enigmatic will-of-the-wisp redhead, Gwen, who wins all sorts of awards for her straight-ahead, thorough and in-depth reporting. She is not just your next-door best friend, or for that matter, someone who has attended the finest of schools and has an amazing DNA. She was and is one of us.

Like a vapor she has disappeared into the rare toxic ether of the Internet, but is still remembered, by many of my constituents at First Montclair House, as the blood unit and plasma, of Montclair Local; we eagerly anticipated her marvelous charismatic interviews that put meat on the bones and gave us not just an article but kudos for whatever assignment she reported. 

In 1941, during World War II, my favorite Uncle Bob Goodman, a fellow Montclairian, was in Geb. Smith Patton Jr.'s 13th Armoured Black Cat Division in Germany. He came home on a leav  and woke me up, to ask me to write a letter to Hollywood Movie Star Betty Grable, for a picture of her in a bathing suit, to bring inspiration to his fellow soldiers to win the war. I could barely lick a stamp. My mother sat down with me, and with her help, we wrote a letter, mailed it and received a response. I was barely 3 years old.

In 2021, 80 years later, during our pandemic here at First Montclair House, a very precocious little girl by the name of Bella (also not quite 3 years old) made Valentines and brought them to those of us who have been in seclusion and not able to get around as in days of yore. Bella's little paintings were sent to her grandmother, Betty Singer, an artist, and her grandfather, Arnold Singer, who was a prominent tenured full professor of Fine Art at Cornell University. Such joy occurred that Husniye, Bella's Mother, thought of sending cards to others, realizing seniors who spent their holiday season alone and isolated would be inspired at her child's endeavors

The day after Valentine's Day, while sitting in my car with the engine going, drinking my French Vanilla coffee and reading The New York Post, on page 2, I saw a large picture of Bella smiling, and a full article about what a great little artistic caring child she is. Gwen didn’t write that article, but it was so delightful, I thought for a moment she must have.

And then I thought, what kind of mother did the incomparable Gwen Orel have, for there has to have been a focus, a trigger, an early connection which only a mother could have mysteriously cultivated, nurtured and exposed by connecting with Gwen, while others were watching Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street and SpongeBob. As Gwen Orel stands far from the madding crowd, we salute Beverly Orel, a very special mother.

We have a new editor at Montclair Local with style and grace, glad-to-be-among-us Louis Hochman who is steering the paper with his hands-upon-the-wheel approach as he reaches out into the community with the quest to keep our local newspaper all things important to Montclair. Not bad, already you are doing great!

Editor’s note: Gwel Orel, a founding staffer of Montclair Local and the paper’s former culture editor, moved on from her post in late 2020. She remains a friend of the paper, and work she produced before her departure has run in recent editions of Montclair Local.

Grange Rutan Habermann


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